Holistic Hearth: Courage illuminates life’s darkest hours

By ANNE KAISER

Throughout the past month, my husband and I awaited a major surgery for our 4-month-old son with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. This procedure marked a turning point in our lives as a new family. We looked forward to less frequent medical appointments for our cherished little one and more shared quiet times relaxing and savoring our son’s growth.

In the past, we had offered support to loved ones during their medical challenges, but this milestone — our own child’s surgery — required a new level of faith and courage. We prepared ourselves daily, asking questions of the many nurses and physicians we’d come to know since our son’s birth and reading and researching medical literature as well.

Perhaps most important for me, though, was time spent cultivating courage in the face of this challenge. I am thankful for the many gestures of love and support offered to me and my family on a daily basis, as well as for the kind words of strangers reaching out to us.

I’ve often benefited from walks in nature, time when I actively quiet the rush of modern life and turn my thoughts to meditation and prayer, visualizing a positive outcome for my son’s surgery and times of happiness and celebration in the months ahead for my family.

As I walk, I pause to mark the seasonal changes in the natural world with images captured through the lens of my mind and the digital lens of my camera. As the Wisconsin winter approaches, the window of time for my daily walks has shortened. While sunnier summer days allowed me to leisurely embark on several daily strolls, I must now hurry to visit my favorite trail by mid-afternoon, as daylight fades early.

On these late afternoon walks, in addition to my own meditations, I’ve contemplated the challenges others face throughout the year. For those without homes, those with debilitating medical or financial challenges, those who face violence, those without close family — this season of fading light must be dark in profound ways. For our earliest ancestors, the season of winter must have been challenging in different ways — diminishing sunlight in northern climates marked an uncertainty, a heralding of physical hardship and daily tests of survival.

Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that wintertime offered a chance to celebrate light. As individuals light candles and decorate outdoor spaces with colorful lights, they mark the strength of hope in the presence of challenges. Whether for religious or secular purposes, or for the pure aesthetic joy of illuminating that which is unseen, lit candles have become points of meditation, ways to establish light in the midst of the darkest hours. In this period of darkness, then, another season, one of light, prevails. For me, this light is a reminder to celebrate courage, to honor life’s challenges and affirm the return of sunlight.

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